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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Conspiracy theories for the beginning skeptic.

Hey kiddos, how has everyone been.  Not too bad here, just trying to avoid getting run over by the truck called life.  A lot of interesting things have been happening in the world of science and skepticism.  Comet Ison, the death of Sylvia Browne, the  Burzynski Clinic back in the news, and the "Dueling Dinos" fossil going up for sale. I'm not going to talk about any of these. Lately, a lot of people have been asking my opinion on a particular topic about an event that happened before most of them were born. And no, I wasn't born yet either, and I wouldn't be for another 13 years. Due to the fact it's the 50th anniversary of the assassination of J.F.K.(Kinda weird what some people celebrate, isn't it?) I've decided to dive into the topic.  Not the with J.F.K in particular, but the larger field of conspiracy theories in general.

What is a Conspiracy Theory?
 Before I get any farther, let me state now that I will never say conspiracies don't exist or happen.  They do.  People work together to get other people fired or arrested, They may form a conspiracy to throw someone a surprise birthday party.(the only benign form of a conspiracy I could think of off the top of my head.)  But one thing to remember about conspiracies is this: humans are involved, and humans suck at keeping secrets.  No matter how much you pay people, or what oaths you make a group take, at some point someone is going to tell,  due to their conscience, accidentally talking about it while inebriated, or wanting a bit of fame that goes along with being part of whatever the act was.  And the more people that are involved, the higher the odds that someone is going to talk.  Now I can come down from my soap box and get back to the topic at hand.
First off, a conspiracy is defined by The Free Online Dictionary as:
1. An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.
2. A group of conspirators.
3. Law An agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.
4. A joining or acting together, as if by sinister design
Basically it means people working in secret to perform an act, normally an immoral or illegal one.
A theory, also from The Free Online Dictionary is:
1. A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
2. The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fine musician who had never studied theory.
3. A set of theorems that constitute a systematic view of a branch of mathematics.
4. Abstract reasoning; speculation: a decision based on experience rather than theory.
5. A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment: staked out the house on the theory that criminals usually return to the scene of the crime.
6. An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture
The last definition is the one that is related when most people use the term "theory".  In common language, it means a guess, while when using it in the scientific sense, it is an idea or concept that has been tested and proven to be accurate.  So when you break down the term "conspiracy theory" it means "I think people are secretly working against the common good of an individual or group."  When the conspiracy theorists use the term theory and try to make it sound like they have used the scientific process to come to their conclusions, they are still using the the common language form of the term.  They are making a guess, and then finding the information that seems to fit their personal ideas.  The reason that understanding conspiracy theories is important to the burgeoning skeptic is that they tie into almost all other areas of WOO, from alt med (the government and Big Pharma are working to keep this cure a secret), to climate change (the scientists are creating global warming so we have to depend on them for an answer), to the obvious example of government and politics (I really don't have to put an example here, do I?  Okay, fine for you in the back, but next time, be here on time.  How about... The government created A.I.D.S. to hurt the gay/african american/other affected minority groups.)  Often WOO aficionados will use a conspiracy theory to rationalize what they do, and to make what they are doing seem even more legitimate.  Even ghost hunters and those that believe near death experiences will use the scientific community as an evil organization hellbent on keeping information secret.

Common Conspiracies
The reason I started with the assassination of JFK is that pretty much from the day it happened, people have been coming up with various hypothesis' as to why it happened and who did it, And they continue to be debated to this day.  Every time there is a tragic event, some people automatically start coming up with alternative theories.  Think back to the Twin Towers in New York, the Sandy Hook school shooting,  or even Hurricane Sandy.  In each event, some people decided that the official story couldn't be the truth, so they came up with an alternative hypothesis that they felt was closer to the truth, at least as they see it.  With JFK, the ideas are that there were multiple shooters, Oswald was just a scapegoat, the CIA did it, the KGB, or even Vice-President Johnson was responsible.  With the towers, yes there was a conspiracy, but it is unlikely that G.W. Bush was in on it.  The conspiracy was between Al-Qaeda operatives that wanted to cause physical, emotional, and moral damage to the U.S.  With Sandy Hook, the idea is that the Obama administration set up a false shooting event to promote gun control legislation.  With Hurricane Sandy, some people actually believe that Obama caused it using the H.A.A.R.P. facility.  Some other theories that you may have heard of are :

  • The moon landing
  • The Oklahoma city Bombing
  • Pearl Harbor
  • The Boston Marathon
  • The Holocaust never happening
  • Perpetual motion or free energy machines
  • Several over the cause or purpose of H.I.V.and A.I.D.S.
  • Suppression of the cures for cancer or A.I.D.S.
  • Suppression of various advanced technologies
  • Weapon testing
  • Fluoride in the water
  • Suppression of natural, traditional, or alternative medicine
  • RFID chips
  • Aliens
  • pretty much any war or assassinations
  • The Templars, Illuminati, or various other shadow groups
  • Cloud seeding
  • Climate Change
  • Subliminal Advertising
  • Genetically Organized Organisms
  • Princess Diana was killed by the monarchy
  • Princess Di, Elvis, and JFK are alive and in hiding
  • False flag operations
 How conspiracy theories are created and countering them

It seems to be fairly easy to come up with a conspiracy theory about any given event.  All that you have to do is look at an event, do some research on it, find a detail that you think doesn't sound right, and then do what's called "cherry picking" through the information to find details that fit your personal views.  Cherry picking is when you look at data and pick out the few facts that fit what you want to prove.  What many conspiracy theorists do is they find anything anomalous and build their sandcastle from there.  One example is the infamous Tower 7 during the 9/11 crisis.  This building was used to store federal investigation records. The conspiracy nutters claim that fire alone couldn't have destroyed the steel building, and it was never hit by a plane. While the building wasn't hit by a plane, it was hit by part of the twin towers as they fell.  Also, fire doesn't have to "destroy" a building in order for it to fall, it just has to cause enough structural damage to the building for it to no longer be able to support its own weight. (and as a happy note, this is the first time when I've researched a topic, and the skeptical side of the argument has been the majority of web hits that I got on Google.)  I'm not going to go into detail on each and every point of all the conspiracies that are floating around.  Some people have spent their entire career working on just one conspiracy theory, trying to show how and why the official story is the most likely truth.  The thing to keep in mind is that when all the "anomalies" analyzed and put into the bigger picture instead of taken separately, they are no longer an anomaly, but a critical part of the narrative.  You can debate with the conspiracy theorists, but  normally, they do have a lot of in-depth knowledge on the topic that only an expert would have. When talking to them on their topic of choice, they may use the "Gish-Gallop" technique.  This is when a lot of points are thrown out in a rapid-fire manner that doesn't give you a chance to rebuke any of them, let alone all of them.  They may also use the "Galileo" fallacy.  This is when they compare themselves to the famous astronomer and his persecution by the church.   Ad Hoc, Strawman, and Ad Hominem attacks are also very commonly used.  They also tend to use terms in a derogatory manner, such as "official", "truth", and "they" to denote that the official truth of the matter is simply a story that they want the sheeple to follow.  The fans of various conspiracies will also insist that "they know the truth and everything from main stream media is a lie." They can be so devoted to their "cause" that even if you are able to successfully debate every one of their points, they will simply claim that you are being blinded by the government lies, you're on the payroll of whatever shadow group, you need to be skeptical about what you're being told, or only they know what's going on.  Not to say that having a dialogue with these folks is a complete waste of time.  On the rare occasion, you can actually get them to accept reality and let go of their delusions.  The real value of debating these folks, especially in a public forum, is that some people that are on the fence may be pushed into looking into more information, and not just looking at infowars or listening to Coast to Coast AM.  

Why they persist
I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, so I do not have a professional opinion as to why these won't go away.  In my lay-person opinion however, I feel that the main reason people continue to create and believe in conspiracy theories is that they are trying to find a way to make sense of everything going on around them.  In their minds, there has to be a reason why things happen.  Hurricane Sandy couldn't have done the damage it did without someone guiding it.  Kennedy couldn't have been shot by a single disturbed individual on his own, there had to be a larger power backing him.  To a lot of these people, there just has to be someone in charge, otherwise the world is a chaotic, dangerous place where stuff happens for no reason.  Another reason that these conspiracy theories are going to continue to exist is that humans are pattern seeking creatures.  We see faces in power outlets, rabbits in clouds, and gunmen behind picket fences.  This is probably an evolutionary trait developed to keep us from becoming a larger predators brunch.  We may not be able to completely get rid of conspiratorial thinking, partly due to the way our brains work, and partly due to the fact that there are real conspiracies, but hopefully, we can work to lessen there influence and the problems they cause.  The key to defeating or at least countering conspiracy theories is to use, and urge others, reliable sources.  The hard core theorists will simply say that these are dis-information tools used by whatever flavor of secret cabal is out there, but in all honesty, they are the best we have.

Why are they dangerous?

Conspiracy theories are dangerous for several reasons.  Some people become so obsessed with their pet theory that they tend to lose touch with a little thing called reality.  One day they are talking about how Monsanto is trying to use GMO's to control the sheeple(a lovely term a lot of conspiracy theorists use)and a couple of weeks later, the squirrels are attempting genocide against humans by jumping out in front of their cars to make them crash.(and yes, I have heard that from a fellow that actually believed it, he even had documentation.)  They also dilute and distort the real facts behind an event, which causes distrust in any official sources.  Granted, on occasion, there have been real conspiracies that have cropped up.  Can you say Iran-Contra and Oliver North?  How about the NSA (which just got me entered into their database of subversives by golly) and Snowden?   Who out there remembers the WMD's in Iraq?  Yes events like these do happen, but if you compare the number of actual conspiracies to the number that are reported all the time, just a minuscule fraction of a percentage are true.  This brings up another point.  If you'll notice, all of these events became major news after being reported and researched.  The other conspiracies are still met with derision due to the fact that they can't be corroborated and proven.  The lines of evidence have been reviewed and found to be lacking.  Some of the theorists insist that there is a shadow government run by lizards, aliens, the Templar Knights, Colonel Sanders, etc., that is capable of hiding anything or anyone they want to.  Keep in mind they are including the same government that was unable to hide the fact that a president received oral sex in the oval office.  And I don't mean Grover Cleveland.  Besides, do you realize how much power any single organization would have to wield to keep something off of the internet?  If they really had that much power, and the ability to make people disappear, then why are there still conspiracy theorists out there, and not just new ones, but the same ones that have been doing this shit for years?

What can be done, and should we do anything?
There are a few things that we, as skeptics, can do.  First is to TAKE BACK THE WORD SKEPTIC!!!!  The last few years, I have noticed an increasing trend of these folks on the fringes to claim that they are "skeptics" and "skeptical"  about the "official" story.  They claim that they look at more evidence than the official sources, and therefore, they have a special insight into the reality of events.  What they really tend to do is follow a single line of evidence that will lead them straight back to their conclusion.  They don't listen to the actual experts, they listen to people who, at best, may have a personal anecdote to share.  As members of the skeptical community, whether you call yourself a skeptic, free thinker, rational thinker, critical thinker, or realist, we need to take this term back from the lunatic fringe!  They have made it to where the phrase "I'm a skeptic" means that no information will change your mind.  A true skeptic will change their mind with the evidence.  (Sorry about the rant folks, but my news feeds under "skeptic" nowadays have people decrying evolution, climate change, vaccines, and the like.)  Another thing that can be done is to point people towards non-partisan, non-biased sources of information.  These would be websites such as Snopes.com, which is pretty good for quickly taking apart some of the Facebook urban legends that pop up all the time, and Wikipedia.com.  I know people complain about Wikipedia and the fact that anyone can write on almost any article, but they really do have some good controls, and the fact that anyone can write means that bad information will be called out and fixed quickly, provided they can cite and document their sources.  Most of the time newspapers such as the New York Times and newsgroups such as CNN, MSN, and Google News are fairly reliable, but you still have to check the sources, so point them towards any relevant topics at these places as well.  Finally, be reasonable about when and how to approach someone.  If they think that the cat next door is working with the Rottweiler across the street to make their life a living hell, it might be best to point out cats and dogs normally don't work together well and leave it at that.  If someone thinks that the manager at Walmart is secretly putting Illuminati secret pictographs in the bar codes and they need to be taken out before the New World Order can take over, then it might be time to really step in and show them why it is likely not a real scenario, and that they might need psychiatric help.  If they continually post things from InfoWars, Mercola, and the like on FaceBook, find the corresponding article on Snopes and post it as a reply.  Most of all, as long as they aren't posing a danger to themselves or others, deal with them in a calm thoughtful manner.  Find out why they think the way they do, and try and use that reasoning to show them the "other side" of the evidence and let them make a decision from there.  You would be surprised how often people come to a , and because I really don't want to use the word proper, more accurate interpretation of reality

I hope that you found this article at least somewhat entertaining and informative.  I also hope that my American readers have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. If anyone gives you the line about tryptophan putting people to sleep, to keep the peace, just say "yes Uncle Mikey, of course."  As a disclaimer, I actually enjoy listening to conspiracy theories and the people that promote them, such as Jesse Ventura and the Conspiracy Uncovered show that used to be on TV here in Oklahoma.   Alex Jones, I can do without.  That man is such a right wing conservative nutjob, I can only listen to 25 seconds of him talking before I want to facepalm my self, with both hands, balled up into fists, holding boughs of poison oak, while they're on fire.  As usual, you can leave any questions, comments or limericks in the comment section.  Until next time, remember to be reasonable, be kind and rewind.

The Skeptical Okie

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy Halloween! A very quick history behind the holiday.

EDIT* I know that this post is not up to my usual writing and research standards. I felt like changing things up a bit for this one and more or less just do a stream of conciousness type of post. I know it's a really crappy article, but they aren't all like this.

Hey kiddos, how has everyone been?  Things have been survivable here.  I thought I would take a break from the science heavy topics of the last few posts and have a little fun looking into what is easily one of my favorite holidays, Moldy Cheese Day.  No wait, I meant Halloween.  Forget about the cheese thing, You never saw that.  I've got a lot to do for the holiday, so this is going to be a quickie.

According to Conservapedia, "Hallow's Eve, or Halloween, is a tradition originating in Ireland and celebrated on the evening of October 31, before All Hallows Day (or All Saints Day). Halloween continues to be related to the harvest and represents a participative ritualization not only of the timeless fears of uncertainty and death but also of the modern fears of transition from rural to urban life."  The entire article on the holiday is barely longer than a page and took about 2 minutes to read it.  Now then, according to Wikipedia, "Halloween or Hallowe'en (/ˌhæləˈwin, -ˈin, ˌhɒl-/; a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening"),[5] also known as All Hallows' Eve,[6] is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints(hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.[7]
According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals,[8][9] with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain.[6][10][11] Other academics maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.[12]
Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related "guising" or "trunk-or-treating"), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lightingbonfiresapple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.".  And this is just the first paragraph.  The article is about 12 pages long.  The concensus is that Halloween came from the ancient Celts.  So why do we have the costumes, the candy, and the fear about our children and pets?  (And yes, there actually is a skeptic side to Halloween, and I don't mean ghosts and goblins).  Lets see what I can find.

Costumes, Trick or Treat, and Halloween
Originally, during the Celtic holiday known as Samhain, there were no costumes, only bits of food left out to placate the spirits and Fae creatures that roamed the land during this time.  After a few centuries, people began to dress like these creatures.  I can't find any dependable references that show they did this to hide from evil spirits, which is what most of us have heard.  Eventually, the folks that dressed up in costumes began "mumming", or performing antics while in costume.  Think of it as a form of street theater, just not as presumptuous.  They would perform antics in exchange for food and drink, sort of like caroling during Christmas.  This eventually evolved into what we now know as Trick or Treat. (1) And if you live in a country that I don't mention (and I know there are going to be a lot that get skipped)  feel free to let us know what customs are native to your part of the world.  Like I said, this is just going to be a quick look at a couple of the aspects of Halloween.

Jack O' Lanterns
Most of us in the United States have at some point cut the top off of a pumpkin, shoved our hands into the gooey wet center, grabbed a hand full of pulp and seeds, and thought "Is this what brains feel like?"  I surely can't be the only one....Uh.. moving on.  The origin of the Jack O' Lantern is actually pretty interesting.  Guess what the original vegetable was.  No, that's a fruit.  That isn't even a plant.  Whoa, I don't think I'm coming to your house this year.  Before this gets strange, I'll tell you that it was the humble turnip.  Basically the legend is a guy tricks the devil, devil gets revenge, guy has to carry around a piece of coal in a turnip to light his way for all eternity.  And originally in Ireland, turnips were used, but when folks migrated to the U.S., pumpkins were a lot more plentiful, so they began to use those instead. (2)  These actually look pretty cool (turnips can get a lot bigger than most U.S. citizens realize)

Skepticism and Halloween
The reason for the, admittedly, poor history is because I really wanted to talk about the skeptical side to Halloween.  And no, I don't mean stories about teenagers being killed while skinny dipping in a lake, or the hook handed man, or the campers that disappear without a trace.  What I'm talking about is the urban legends about some sick bastard putting poison or razor blades in Halloween candy.  I'm not saying it's a bad thing to check your kids candy, or your own for that matter, and dispose of anything that you aren't comfortable with, like the half a pack of Camels and the empty bottle of Crown Royal from the guy in the bathrobe.  But when it comes to tales of people putting things in candy to intentionally hurt children these are false, according to Snopes.com and most other reliable sources. (3)  That's not to say that there haven't been one or two isolated instances, possibly even caused by these types of stories, but I once again could not find any evidence that this has occurred.  The reason I bring this up is that I have noticed that there are fewer and fewer children going door to door to trick or treat, and most of the ones that I do see, really shouldn't be doing it with out a younger sibling or even their own child.  A lot of this seems to stem from the fear mongering that local and national news networks do about the "dangers" of Halloween candy.  From what I can find, the greatest danger is cavities and maybe diabetes, for the extremists out there.  Of course you do have the minority of people that truly believe that the veil between worlds is thinnest on All Hallows Eve, and that the spirits are walking the earth.  With these people, you should just hold your tongue, walk away slowly, and wait until the holiday is over before resuming contact.  That or do what I have always done and sit back and enjoy.  Sometimes the way these people behave can be truly interesting, as long as it's not destructive.  Which brings me to another bit of Woo that crops up every couple of years around Halloween.  Satanic Cults sacrificing black cats on Halloween. First of all, the actual Church of Satan is actually a hedonism group.  You know, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Then wash, rinse and repeat.  And I would recommend washing 1 more time, just to make sure.  The urban legend about black cats being sacrificed is just that, an urban legend.  According to Snopes, National Geographic, The Huffington Post (They are really pretty reliable, on some things), it is just a story.  If you look on infowars (pardon me while a puke for actually writing their name in a post of mine...o.k. ,I'm back), or endofthe americandream.com, they will tell that it's true.  Personally, I will trust the slightly more level headed publications.  In years past at my work, they haven't allowed black cats to be adopted the week before Halloween, due to stories like that.  Now then, I'm not going to just wave my hands and say "Bullshit" everytime I hear one of these tales.  Instead, I will listen to them and see if they say any of the following:
1) It happened to a cousins friend, a friend of a friend, my uncles fathers college roommates niece... or any other way to distance themselves from the "events".
2)  It happened in a town in Montana in the 80's to a person.  If there is a complete lack of details, or if the information seems a bit hazy.
3)If it sounds familiar, but with one or two details changed.
All of these are normally signs that you are hearing an urban legend, or that the person telling it to you has a very short attention span.  People will distance themselves through other people that they know because subconsciously  it gives it an air of authority.  The lack of details is just that, no details.  Often it is vaguely plausible enough to seem reliable, but not so specific that it can easily be checked out.  And finally, these stories change and evolve over time, especially thanks to the internet and social media.  If you are on FaceBook, watch your news feed, and you will notice shocking stories making the rounds.  If you are my age, some of these are going to sound familiar because we heard them in the 70's and 80's.  They just change the location and the date, put some snazzy new picture to go with it, and then hit "post" and watch it take off. Most are harmless, but when the stories involve our children and pets, logic very rarely has any part in the decisions that are made.  I'm all for safety, but I feel we should let our kids go door to door and beg people for high fructose artificially dyed and flavored sugary concoctions  that make dentists everywhere rub their hands in glee.  Just be sensible and don't take them to the part of town that the cops aren't willing to go, go in large groups, and make sure one person is dressed as a traffic cop and another one as Dr. Who in every group.  Like I said, this is a quickie because this is one of my favorite holidays, and I have a lot to do before the 31st gets here. Until next time, be good, be reasonable, and be in bed by a decent hour.  


The Skeptical Okie

1. The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows by Jack Santino - Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

2.  Origins of Jack O Lantern  Author Unknown - http://www.jackolanterns.net/jackolantern.htm

3.  Halloween Poisonings Snopes.com - http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We're still here, just busy as hell.

Hey folks, just thought I'd put in a quick note to let everyone know that I'm still here and haven't been grabbed by the Men in Black and fed to a Bigfoot shortly before Melba Ketchum tests it for human DNA.  You know how you make plans, set aside time to work on various projects and spend time with the family and then life kicks you square in the ass?  That's been the way it's been for the past few weeks.  Hopefully the dust should be settling done pretty soon and writing can resume as usual.  Currently, I am trying to research the Sea Band product, which is an acupressure wristband that is supposed to help with nausea, especially in pregnant women.  (Makes me think of a scene in Xena, Warrior Princess where Xena and Gabrielle are on a ship and Xena shows Gabrielle a pressure point on her wrist to help her with her nausea, but the side effect is that you will eat anything.)  I am also researching a multi marketing company called Waiora.  Both of these are reader requests, and I will admit that they have taken me quite to get to them, and I apologize.  On top of trying to look into these topics, and trying to keep a look out for other interesting bits of news or Woo to write about, I am trying to get the Oklahoma Skeptics Society up and going and more active in the state as well as looking at building a website for the group as well.  I am also trying to do regular Skeptics in the Pub type meetings.   Keep checking in, and I promise that new posts are coming.  Once again, if you have anything that you want me to look into, or if you have any knowledge of the topics I'm currentlyresearching,  let me know.  You can leave a message on FaceBook on the Oklahoma Skeptics Society page, on Twitter @SkepticalOkie, or email me at skepticalokie@gmail.com, or post a comment here on the blog.  Thanks for sticking with me, and stay skeptical.

The Skeptical Okie

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Skeptical Okies first requested investigation!

I have received several replies to my shameless pleading for help on my little activism project. (I'm still trying to come up with a title for it, so if anyone has any suggestions, let me know)  There will be a bit of a lag between each post, due mostly to the research involved, so bear with me.  First off, I would like to say thanks to Martin Leonard, who suggested this product to me. It is called the T-28 Whole house protection from iHealth.  Here in the U.S., it's sold under the name T28w 3G  or P.S.T 28 by green8usa.com .   I was unable to actually test it, mostly due to the fact that here in the U.S., it costs $597, which is a considerable chunk of change.   That price is for each unit, and they recommend using multiple units.  Martin alerted me to the New Zealand Retailer of this wonderful pile of Woo, and I contacted them trying to learn more about it.

This is a copy of the message that I sent.

I am interested in your T-28 3G/4G Whole House Protection device, but I do have some questions.  Does it need to be hard wired into my electrical system, or does it use batteries?  How Does it harmonise and neutralise electromagnetic radiation?  Does it use some form of jamming signal or electro feedback loop?  Does it completely prevent electromagnetic radiation from entering the location that it is installed?   And  is the same method that blocks man made EMR also prevent natural background radiation, or is that a different method?  Will my cell phone work inside the protective area, or do I need to leave the 66 metre radius to use it?  How does it help with headaches, sleep disorders, and other physical problems?  Finally how long do I need to use the device before I begin to see improvements?  Thank you for your time and reply.

I used the same spelling for some of the words that they use on their page.  I don;t know if it's colonial spelling or the "z" key on their computer doesn't work.  Any New Zealand readers let me know if this is how you normally spell these words and I'm just being pedantic about them.  I received several e-mails from them within a day or 2, trying to figure out where I was from.  I told them I live in Oklahoma, in the United States, and they sent me a link to a States-side retailer.  This company is called, as I stated earlier, green8usa.com .  Their website has more information concerning the item than the N.Z. one does.  I have tried to contact them, but as of today, I haven't received a reply, so all the information I have is coming straight from their website.   According to them, it works by:
The TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 is energized utilizing a highly specialized processing. The
mode of action is based on a combination of numeral codes and systems and is
scientifically verifiable.
    • TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 – W is designed for a house or building and covers a radius
      of up to 33 meters/ 216 feet.
    • The operational radius of 66 meters/ 216 feet can be increased correspondingly by
      installation in additions of 2 – eg:
      2 P.S.T.28 = 66 m/216 ft. protection4 P.S.T.28 = 132 m/432 ft. protection
      6 P.S.T.28 = 198 m/648 ft. protection
      Enlargements are possible in a 2- step mode only.
The bottom line is that if you need to protect larger areas you don’t want a Transformer 28W you want to start with a Transformer 28H and combine multiples of 28H units to increase the area. This is a more economical way to protect very large areas.
  • TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 protects permanently and safely against electromagnetic
    radiation from transmitters and satellites.
  • TRANSFORMER P.S.T.28 neutralizes any output of gas and pollution created by
    Transmitter mast
  • TRANSFORMER P.S.T.28 works effectively if installed correctly and exactly.
    Advice for installation
It is informative and helpful to determine the so called BOVIS-UNIT before installation. In
most cases BOVIS-UNIT measures below 3000. The absolute minimum rate should be 6.500
BOVIS- UNITS. Energy losses are caused, among other things, by electromagnetic
radiation. You can calculate the BOVIS-UNIT by means of radiaesthesia or pendulum.
Another measurement should be done a couple days after installation. You will
immediately see the decisive difference.
Installation inside houses or apartments/flats
  1. Choose a protected place where the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 is out of the way and will
    not be moved. This can be on a cupboard, wardrobe, or somewhere on the floor – you
    can determine best. There must not be any cover above the TRANSFORMER P.S.T 28.
    Nothing must be placed on it.
  2. Place the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 horizontally. Use a compass and determine which
    direction is North. Align the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 so that the North arrow on the
    TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 coincides with the North position on the compass.
  3. After aligning the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28, mark its position by drawing a line all
    around or by pinpointing its corners.
  4. It is recommended to fix the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 with a double sticky tape.
  5. Right after installation the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 starts working. You will immediately
    be able to feel the favorable effect.
  6. At 2 or 3 hour intervals you can measure the increasing BOVIS-UNITS.
    What you should feel or discover
    After the TRANSFORMATION in an apartment/flat or house has been completed, you will
    feel a soft fresh waft, as if the windows are open. Overall you should feel better. The energy
    inside has been increased considerably.
Installation outdoors – houses, barns, buildings, warehouses
  1. Choose a protected place where the TRANSFROMER P.S.T. 28 is out of the way and
    cannot be moved. This can be in the open, on the ground, or on a higher platform.
    There must not be any cover above the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28. Nothing must be
    placed on it. If dirty, clean occasionally. The TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 is weather proof.
    The effectiveness of its surface with 28 measuring points will be guaranteed for 5 years.
  2. Place the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 horizontally on suitable ground.
  3. Use a compass and determine which direction is North. Align the TRANSFORMER P.S.T.
    28 so that the North arrow on the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 coincides with the North
    position on the compass.
  4. After aligning the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28, mark its position by drawing a line all
    around or by pinpointing its corners. It is recommended to secure the TRANSFORMER
    P.S.T. 28 so that it cannot be blown away.
  5. Right after installation the TRANSFORMER P.S.T. 28 starts working. You will immediately
    be able to feel the favorable effect.
  6. At 2 or 3 hour intervals you can measure the increasing BOVIS-UNITS within and around
    the object.
All information from green8usa.com

Urg...this all seems rather questionable to me.  First off, lets talk about the Bovis units.  When you put Bovis units into your search engine of choice, The Wiki article is the first followed by a lot with New Age feel to them.  According to Wikipedia, the Bovis Scale is "a concept used by dowsers and adherents of geomancy to quantify the strength of a postulated "cosmo-telluric energy" inherent in a location."  Just the words dowser and geomancy should tell you you're dealing with some serious Woo.  I don't even know what the hell "cosmo-telluric energy" is.  Like most pseudoscientific ideas, the Bovis Scale can't be measured by science, and hasn't been recognized by the scientific community.  It's a short article and I recommend you read it for yourself.  If it makes sense to you, please let me know what it's even supposed to do.  I saw references to fruits and vegetables, but nothing about cell phones and laptops.  According to Perfectwaters.com, the Bovis Scale is a measurement of spiritual energy (insert your own DragonBall Z reference) in a person, place or idea.  Once again, how this related to modern technology, green8usa doesn't say.  I guess they claiming your Iphone doesn't have a soul?  To measure Bovis units, you hang a pendulum and watch how it swings.  Can you say ideomotor effect?  I knew you could.  Then it says that there can be no cover over the P.S.T. 28.  Does that mean that your roof doesn't count as covering it?  Or are you supposed to knock a hole in your ceiling so the thing can work?  And then you align it with North.  Why?  I couldn't find an explanation as to why.  My assumption is that they are playing on the New Age belief of the cardinal points, and that everything should be lined up relatively to North.  I spoke to an electrician, and showed him the website and asked him if it could possibly, by some slim chance work and his reply was "No F$^&ing way!"  His reasoning was that there generally has to be a structure that completely surrounds an item to block it from any kind of electromagnetic radiation, sort of like a Faraday Box.  The structure normally has metal to, as he explained it," bounce the signal back where it came from."  Placing a small square with what looks like a circuit board printed on it and expecting it to block all electromagnetic radiation is sort of like putting a piece of Kevlar in the middle of a battlefield and expecting all the bullets to bounce away.

They also slipped in a weasel phrase in case the product doesn't work and someone wants a refund.  I'll give you a moment to find it..... Did you see it?  It was "works effectively if installed correctly and exactly."  The installation instructions a slightly vague and if you call them up to complain about it not working, I would imagine that they will say, "Sorry to hear that, but you must have done something wrong when you put it in."   Though how you would actually know if it's working or not is a mystery to me.  The measurement is either subjective (how you feel)  or can't be measured by any known scientific means.  Before I discuss some of the problems with how these things are supposed to work, I want to talk a bit about their website.  At the top, they have 4 sections labeled Home, Proof, Testimonials, and Contact Us.  I wanted to see what research they had, which labs had done it, and who had verified the results.  What I got was a video of a British man named David Furlong, who is apparently a therapist in the UK.  It doesn't say what kind of therapist, or how he would be qualified to talk about electromagnetic radiation.  He starts off by talking about what the green 8 products can do for you.  (If you want to impress an American, oddly enough, get someone with a British accent to sell it.  Weird how well that works.)  In the video, he has a woman sitting there and puts a probe in her hand.  It made me immediately think of the e-meter that Scientologists use.  Then he says he is going to test one of her acupressure points.  There is a chart on the computer screen and a line that goes up to the middle, which means that she is in balance.  (funny that this is a product to protect against the electromagnetic radiation emitted by technology, and there he is using a computer.  He must have one on it.)  Then he puts a "mobile phone on her body, which with the angle, you can't quite tell if he's actually placing it on her lap or the table.  This time when he does a reading, the line goes above the middle and you hear a really crappy alarm sound.  He says that her body has immediately gone into a stress load. (WTF?)  Then he calls the phone and has the female subject (victim, accomplice?) hold it while he does another reading of an acupressure point.  This time the line on the chart goes a wee bit higher.  Then he turns the phone off, basically places what looks like a sticker with a circuit board pattern on the phone and tries again.  If you've got quick eyes, you'll see a message go flying across the bottom of the screen that says that this is for demonstration purpose only, the product should be placed inside the phone case.  This goes back to the weasel phrase of "if installed correctly and exactly"  Keep on mind he didn't install it properly.  Upon the next reading with the product stuck to the outside of the phone, her line on the chart has returned to the center green area.  He then repeats the "test" with her listening to the phone, and what do you know, the line stays in the middle zone.  She says she's going to talk to friends and family about it, and he does his little sales spiel and the video ends.  Now right above the video there is the sentence "Healthy blood has blood cells that are free flowing and don't stick together."  They're right, but I believe that when they do, it is called coagulation, or else the person suffers from sickle cell anemia.  That is the summation of their proof.   Except for the "Add to Cart" banner that seems to appear on every page of the damn site.

 Then comes the testimonials.  A lot of them mention feeling heat coming from their phones (and all of these seem to be for the phone version, not the full house version that initially started me down this rabbit hole).   One even mention developing blisters from using a phone without the green 8.  Another one describes himself as developing  "strange electronic queasiness", which I guess if your queasiness feels electronic, it would be strange.  There are a couple more, but they all basically the same thing, over and over again.

On the home page, you have the option to "read more", and so I did.  Someone owes me a couple of pints of Guinness for this.  Seriously, someone does, this hurt.  There is a video, which is basically a batch of word salad saying electromagnetic fields (EMF) are responsible for weakening immune systems.  They through out the phrase "bio-field" and claims that the green products can change EMF to a bio-field.  Ummm, sure.  Scroll down a bit and you see that they proclaim we are entering a new age of science!  Yeah, about time, the old science was boring.  Guess what the science is.  Not particle physics, no, not quantum physics.  It's Hyperdimensional Physics!  The same line of shit that Richard Hoagland has been promoting for years.  For a better idea of what Richard Hoagland is about, listen to The Exposing PseudoAstronomy podcast.  Or Coast to Coast.  I like Stuart better personally.  Then they go on to say that to get a better feeling about their products, listen to what their customers have to say.  Not researchers, not scientists.  Their customers.  How much will you bet that any negative comments didn't make the cut.  It only makes sense because they are trying to sell this stuff, but really guys, not even trying to say "And now hear what this person in the white coat has to say about our expensive sticker."?  (These cost $37 U.S.)  And then you have the "Add to Cart" banner once again.  And then they have the exact same testimonials at the bottom that they have on the testimonial page.  I think someone was being paid by the word.  And at the bottom of the page, where you can normally leave a comment, the comments are closed.  I also found a Q&A section and after perusing it, the final one caught my eye.  It is:


Q: Since I have the Transformer 22-100 in my home office, do you still recommend getting the Green 8 Gold for my landline cordless phone, which is in the same room?
A: Yes, while the Transformer 22-100 and Transformer 22-30 will protect you from the WiFi radiation from a wireless LAN – if you use a cordless phone it is still important to install a Green 8 Gold inside the handset and another Green 8 Gold on the base station for the cordless phone.
From green8usa.com
So even though you have a relatively expensive system already in place, you should really pop for the $37 one for everyone of your wireless phones too.
I know I started this investigation looking at the whole house model, but the entire website seems to be geared to pushing the single cell phone model, and the rest is either an afterthought or an add on purchase.  From what I can determine, the concept behind them is the same.  You put what looks like a microchip pattern on something and then stick it on something else and it will either block or change EMF.  After looking through their website, I found numerous warning signs that this products claims are completely unfounded and that it is nothing more than Woo.  One is the use of acupressure points in the video to determine the amount of a "stress load" the subject was under.  Another is the jumble of technical sounding phrases used in the video under the "Read More" section.  The overabundance of "testimonials" (some of which may have been written by folks that work for green8) and a lack of laboratory evidence is another warning sign.  The general vagueness in their description of how it's supposed to work, barring manufacturing techniques, doesn't bode well either. Just invoking Richard Hoaglands name sets off skeptical warning bells to most people in the skeptic community.  For the most part, anything that promises to block EMF's and doesn't encase either the source or the recipient doesn't work.  These items seem to be just a techno form of snake oil promising to cure you of lots of different things while only draining your bank account.  To be blunt, don't buy them, and anyone you know that has, hit them with a copy of A Magician in the Laboratory or The Demon Haunted World to knock some sense into them.

This was actually fun to look into, though there were times I was face-palming myself with both hands, and I do have others lined up for the future, so stay tuned.  If you liked it, or if you have pointers, let me know.  Until next time, be good, be reasonable, and don't forget to floss.

The Skeptical Okie

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Naturopathy for the beginning Skeptic

Hello folks.  How have you guys been?  Its been a little jacked up here, mostly due to poor timing and various injuries.  The world of pseudoscientific bullshit keeps rolling along.  I am really starting to understand why James "The Amazing" Randi calls it all "Unsinkable Rubber Duckies".  And just so you know, I'm about to go on a rant, so if you want to skip over it, you may just want to skim past the rest of this paragraph, and the next one too.  I was in the Oklahoma City Bass Pro Shop the other day to kill some time between errands I had to do.  While I was walking through the store, looking at fishing equipment, clothing, and the wide variety of "stuff" they carry, 1) I saw something that pissed me off, which doesn't seem to take much these days, and 2) I had a realization.  What I saw were the damned Power Bands being sold to help with "Stability, Strength, " and I believe it said stamina.  It had the goofy little "hologram" in it and the cheap rubber bracelet. This is ridiculous.  The manufacturers of these things just seem to bounce them from retailer to retailer trying to find somewhere the skeptical community doesn't go.  With the large number of skeptics that don't own firearms, let alone hunt, I think they may have found a safe haven for the time being.  The question is, is it worth it? Would this be a fight worth the time and effort to take up, or would it be a fruitless venture?  Because they actually carry very few things that promote Woo, it may actually be a good thing to nip it in the bud before it has a chance to spread much farther.  I know that the backwoods skepticism seems to be my individual niche, and I may be the only one that cares that these things are being sold here, but on the other hand, if they are successful at Bass Pro Shop, what's to stop them from slowly leaking back out into the general market place again?
    And now for my realization, which is totally unrelated to the power band bracelets.  The realization I had is this: If you ever need a visual or physical representation of the concept of false choices, go through the fishing lure section in any sporting store.  Yes, they may have what looks to be hundreds of different types, but upon closer examination, you'll come to realize that, no, there are only a handful.  You have plastic lures, that while they come in hundreds of colors and various sizes, there are only a scant few designs such as worms, crawfish, fish, tubes, and a few that readily defy an easy description.  Then you have the hard lures (which ironically are plastic while I think the plastic lures are rubber) You can get ones that mimic crawfish, fish, grasshoppers, and mice, and some that are hard to define their general shape.  Once again, they come in a variety of colors and sizes, but for the most part, you only have a few things to choose from.  I know you can use stink bait, live baits, metal lures, and fishing flies, but still not a lot of choices.  So you have roughly 10, maybe 15 choices to make, yet you may see an area that takes up about 1/2 an acre with thousands of different colored packages with wildly promotive descriptions of how much better their product is than all the others.  Yet, in the end, you end up asking yourself do I want a worm or do I want a grasshopper?

First off, before I begin the topic, I would like to thank everyone that has responded to my call for help on the activism project I'm trying to do.  I am currently working on posts for their suggestions, and hopefully I will have them up soon.  I'm also trying to develop a title for the project, rather than continuing to use "New Skeptical Activism Project"  I originally wanted to call it "Project Bullshit", but I don't know how well people would respond to it, and I don't want Penn and teller to think I lifted one of their ideas.  Personally, I think it's to the point, but if you have a better suggestion, let me know.

Naturopathy
Todays topic is another one that the beginning skeptic is going to come across a lot.  You may see it and not actually realize it.  You may even have it in your house at this moment.  Basically any time you see the phrases "All Natural"  "Natural Ingredients" "No Chemical Additives" etc..., you are more than likely dealing with a form of naturopathy.  There are many different forms of alternative medicine that fall under the blanket term of naturopathy, and I'll discuss some of these later in the post.  The basic concept behind naturopathy is no chemicals (which is rather silly, if you think about it, everything is made up of chemicals) and no or minimally invasive surgery.
 The definition of naturopathy according to Wikipedia says:
Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation.[1] Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoids the use of surgery and drugs.[2] Among naturopaths, complete rejection of biomedicine and modern science is common.
It's actually a fairly long article, so I'm just putting the first paragraph here.

And for a laugh, Conservapedia says:
Naturopathy is a New Age alternative medicine. The practice of this medicine include vegetarianism, nutritional and exercise counseling, hydrotherapy, heliotherapy, thalassotherapy, manual therapy, herbalism, acupuncture, aromatherapy, electrotherapy, magnetotherapy, musictherapy, chromotherapy, homeopathy and chiropractic.
Some important names in naturopathy are: Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1852), Theodor Hahn (1824-1883), Arnold Rikli (1823-1906), Sebastian Kneipp (1824-1897), Tadeo Wiesent (1858-1926), Wilhelm Winternitz, Benedict Lust (1872-1945), Eduardo Alfonso, Manuel LezaetaAdrian van der Put, Nicolás Capo and José Castro.
In 1902, Benedict Lust organized the Naturopathic Society of America, which was reorganized as the American Naturopathic Association (ANA) in 1919. [1] In America, licensing and training requirements vary from state to state. In some countries the practice of naturopathic medicine is unregulated or the industry is self regulated.
Naturopathy is a whole medical system that originated in Europe. Naturopathy aims to support the body's ability to heal itself through the use of dietary and lifestyle changes together with therapies such as herbs, massage, and joint manipulation; the emphasis is on supporting health rather than combating disease.
A central belief in naturopathy is that nature has a healing power [2]
Like all New Age practices, reconciling it with Christianity can be problematic.
This is their entire article on the subject.  For once, there is no mention of atheists though.
And the American Naturopathic Association states:
Naturopathy is the oldest form of health care.  It means, essentially, "to follow the path of nature"... in healing.  And as such, naturopathy is directly based on observable scientific principles.  

Terminology:  The words "naturopathic" and "naturopath" are generic terms describing a process or person following the path of nature, generally in health care, but also in other reaches of life.

TITLES:  Traditional Naturopaths title themselves in various ways-  Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopath, Doctor of Natural Health, Natural Physician, Traditional Naturopath, Certified Traditional Naturopath, Naturopathic Practitioner.  This may vary by state/region and by the type of degree or diploma each School conveys.

This term - that of "naturopath"  is our western equivalent of "ayurvedic".  We do not, and encourage others not to buy into the false assumption that this term belongs to an elite few people- namely- the naturopathic medical practitioners.  It is a term that we must share, if we wish to use it at all.

This one seems to be a little more in depth than some of the other associations that I looked into, so for the naturopaths benefit, I am going to use them as the pro side of the article.

History
The history of naturopathy technically goes back to the beginning of human civilization.  The use of herbs has been documented by the Greeks, the Chinese, and even the Sumerians.  What we now call an herbalist was back then called a healer (or a witch when times were bad).  People have known for centuries that chewing on willow bark would help alleviate pain.  This is because willow bark contains salacin, which is basically the same ingredient you find in aspirin.  The term naturopathy was coined, according to Wikipedia, in 1895 by John Scheel and the term was bought by a man named Benedict Lust.  In 1901, the School of Naturopathy was founded by Benedict Lust in New York, which was dissolved in 1919.  Lust then formed the American Naturopathic Association, which survives to this day.  Interest in Naturopathy has had both high and low periods, but it has never completely disappeared.  Due to the fact that until the middle of the 19th century, there weren't really any chemists or doctors working to derive beneficial compounds, I am going to use the 1880's as the beginning of what we know call naturopathy.  Wikipedia is about the only reliable place I was able to find anything on the history of naturopathy, and I've hit most of the high points, so from here, we'll jump right into the practices.

Practices
Like I mentioned earlier, there are a many different alternative practices that can fall under naturopathy, and rather than write an individual post on each one, I am going to list them along with a brief definition.  In no particular order, they are:
Ayurveda- From the Indian sub-continent, it is a combination of herbal medicine and energy manipulation
Herbal medicine- Exactly like is sounds, medicine from herbs.
Homeopathy- Highly diluted substances that are supposed to treat the symptoms
Acupuncture- Needles stuck into "mapped" points on the body to help manipulate energy.
Chinese herbal medicine- Once again, exactly like it sounds, medicine made from herbs, from China.
Color Therapy- This is a new one to me.  It's basically using different colored light to "balance the energy".  I wonder how well it would work on a color-blind person like me?
Reflexology- A form of acupressure used on the feet, hands, or ears.
Manipulative therapy- This includes chiropractic, osteopathy, massage, and anything else that parts of the body are physically manipulated.
Unani-Another new one.  This is a Muslim form of medicine based on the 4 humours.
Yoga- A form of physical exercise from India
Nutrition and diet- A lot of naturopaths tend to lean towards vegetarian or vegan diets to cleanse the body;
Hydrotherapy- Baths.  They actually refer to it as healing with water.
Reiki- Sort of like faith healing.  Hands are placed on the patient and their "energy" or "aura" is manipulated

There are probably others that that I missed and are included, and some of the above are not included, depending on the school and training that the practitioner received. None of these practices have any scientific backing that shows they work any better than the placebo effect.  According to the American Naturopaths Associations website a true naturopath does the following:
Nutrition, Healing Diets, and Food Therapeutics, Healing programs,
Massage and Applied Bodywork Therapies
Naturopathic Physical Medicine
Energy Medicine/Energy Balancing Bodywork
Hydrotherapy
Iridology / Iris Analysis
Applied Natural Therapeutics and Treatments
Medicinal Herbal Practice
Botanical Applied Therapeutics
Herbal Pharmacy and Dispensary.  Apothecary Practice
Natural Physician Assessment Methods
Community Education and Counseling
Holistic Anatomy and Physiology
Parasitology
Microbial Balancing of Inner Ecology
Eastern /Oriental Therapeutic Approaches
Flower Essences Creation and Practice


Once again, little or no evidence that any of these interventions work, except, oddly enough parasitology.  This is the study of parasites and their environments.  I don't know how it made it onto their list.  But overall, the way that naturopathy is supposed to work is that the body heals itself.  In the words of Mark Crislip, host of the Quackcast podcast, "Why do something, just stand there."  And as a side note, I found several places advertising themselves as :Naturopathic Cancer Hospitals".  This disgusted me.  They have all these quack treatments for people that are literally fighting for their lives.  I've said in the past that placebo treatments for the truly terminal may be a good thing, but if someone has a chance to put their cancer into remission through chemo or surgery and live, why go to an alt -med practitioner?  A lot of these also fall under the umbrella term "Holistic", which has just come to mean "whole body"  So they try and treat mind. body and soul when trying to cure people of various ailments.  It's just another aspect of "Supplementary Complimentary Alternative Medicine".  (To borrow again from Mark Crislip, it's all S.C.A.M.)

Licensing and Regulation
There are only about 20 U.S. states and territories that require naturopaths to be licensed.  They are:
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • United States Territories: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
This list came from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
Looking through their list of licensing boards, I did not see any that did not have the word Naturopth in it.  Not a single one had the phrase "Medical Board" in it, like you would see with a regular M.D.  They appear to be largely self regulated, which in of itself is a scary thought.  South Carolina and Tennessee are the only states that actually prohibit naturopathic practices, and Utah is the only one to require a residency between graduation and beginning a practice.  Way to go Mormons!
As for actual U.S. regulation (and yes, I know I;m primarily discussing U.S. policies rather other countries.  This is because each country has their own views as to what constitutes a naturopath or traditional healer and what constitutes modern medicine.), there is very little regulation.  In most states, I could hang a sign out my front door and advertise myself as a naturopathic healer, with little fear of breaking any laws.   I could find no evidence of a regulatory board in the Department of Health and Human Services for chiropractic, hompeopathic, or any other alt-med practice. When it comes to herbal medicine, there is no regulation by the F.D.A.  All those bottles of herbal supplements lined up on the shelf at your local Wal-Mart, Target, WalGreens, or any other store, (which is the most common way people come into contact with this particularly invasive form of Woo) have no regulation.  There is no guarantee that what the bottle claims to contain is actually in it.  There is a good article on Slate.com about the lack of regulation over these supplements.  You can read it here.  Basically due to lobby groups, they were defined as dietary supplements, therefore not subject to the more rigorous F.D.A. regulation over food and drugs.  As a matter of fact, I pulled these examples straight from the F.D.A. F.A.Q. (damn, that's a lot of acronyms for one post) website concerning dietary supplements.  It states:
Manufacturers and distributors do not need FDA approval to sell their dietary supplements. This means that FDA does not keep a list of manufacturers, distributors or the dietary supplement products they sell. If you want more detailed information than the label tells you about a specific product, you may contact the manufacturer of that brand directly. The name and address of the manufacturer or distributor can be found on the label of the dietary supplement.
By law (DSHEA), the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that its dietary supplement products are safe before they are marketed. Unlike drug products that must be proven safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, there are no provisions in the law for FDA to "approve" dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer. Under DSHEA, once the product is marketed, FDA has the responsibility for showing that a dietary supplement is "unsafe," before it can take action to restrict the product's use or removal from the marketplace. However, manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements must record, investigate and forward to FDA any reports they receive of serious adverse events associated with the use of their products that are reported to them directly. FDA is able to evaluate these reports and any other adverse event information reported directly to us by healthcare providers or consumers to identify early signals that a product may present safety risks to consumers. You can find more information on reporting adverse events associated with the use of dietary supplements at Dietary Supplements - Adverse Event Reporting.
No, except for rules described above that govern "new dietary ingredients," there is no provision under any law or regulation that FDA enforces that requires a firm to disclose to FDA or consumers the information they have about the safety or purported benefits of their dietary supplement products. Likewise, there is no prohibition against them making this information available either to FDA or to their customers. It is up to each firm to set its own policy on disclosure of such information. For more information, see claims that can be made for dietary supplements
That is a scary thought!  You can read the rest of it here.  Like most other alternative medicines, they do not have to show efficacy before marketing their products.  Which leads us to the next point.  (I'm getting a bit better at segues)

Evidence
The evidence for the efficacy of any naturopathic intervention is nearly nil.  I trolled pub-med and couldn't find any trustworthy studies that showed any of the treatments were actually capable of helping.  I will allow one caveat though.  Many medicines we have today are indeed derived from natural products.  The main example is willow bark, which once it was analyzed, we were able to make aspirin.  Like all other alt-med treatments, the pro side constantly uses anecdotes and subjective measurements as evidence that their ideas work.  My personal favorite tactic they use, especially in the energy healing and manipulation group, is that science has no way to measure what they are doing, but they know they are doing it.  You will hear naturopaths use several arguments during debates.  The most common ones are:
The argument from antiquity- " People have been using this for thousands of years, so it must work."  People have also been sacrificing animals, babies, and virgins for centuries.
The argument from nature - "If it's natural, it must be good for you."  Well asbestos, hemlock, and uranium are all natural, so sit down and enjoy the soup.
The argument from conspiracy -"Big Pharma doesn't want people to be healthy or to know that this works because it will eat into their profits."  Bullshit asshole.  Last year, people spent about $34 billion on alt med.  When you figure these companies don't have to pay for research and development, licensing, years of testing, years of waiting for approval for sale, and yes marketing, it;s almost pure profit.  So much for the mom and pop market model..
Yes almost all alt-med practitioners will throw out the "Big Pharma" or "Big Government" conspiracy card at some point in a discussion.  As I said earlier, the scientific evidence for the efficacy of a naturopaths "treatments" is sorely lacking.

Conclusion
My personal conclusion when it comes to medical treatment is that I would rather go and get poked and prodded by someone that earned their white coat with years of education from a school with the word "medical" in it than chew on a piece of tree bark while someone tells me to eat more green and orange food and then gives me a bottle of saw palmetto.

I know this article wasn't as organized as the other 2 "Woo for the beginning Skeptic" posts were.  I didn't realize exactly how much the topic actually encompassed, and because of personal experience with some aspects of it, I kept finding myself getting frustrated and going off on rants that I had to come back and edit out later. (This one is very heavily edited.  It's taken me several weeks to write it.)  I still may come back and revisit some of the subdivisions later, if people request that or if there is a news article concerning one of them.   I know I cursed a bit more than usual, and I hope that impressionable young children aren't reading this.  If you are,I hope you learned something.  The lesson is "Don't do alt-med.  It's bad, mmmkay?"  And now we have my first promo as a matter of fact!  One of you lovely readers has written a book on homeopathy, which will hopefully be published soon, and was kind enough to let me know about it.  When it's published, I will give you all the details, where to get it, cost, formats, and where to send any letters of praise and appreciation.  Or at least as much info as they want me to put out. Until next time, be good, be reasonable, and be yourself.

The Skeptical Okie